Parents of Beaufort County students can voice their preference between a shorter 12-day Christmas break or ending the school year after Memorial Day as the school district wrestles with how to set up the 2017-18 calendar within a tighter fall schedule mandated by state law.
The online survey will be available by next week, district spokesman Jim Foster said Wednesday, and will include only two options. Both will end the fall semester on Dec. 21, leaving the question of when to begin the spring semester.
The first option would bring students back Jan. 3, creating a 12-day break that falls short of the Christmas break to which county families are accustomed, which is typically 14 days.
The alternative would extend the break into the following week, starting Jan. 8 or 9, though tacking those school days on at the back end would would extend the finish past Memorial Day weekend.
The parent survey is an extension of a school board request Tuesday night to present those two options to teachers and district employees for comment. The proposal for a longer break, superintendent Jeff Moss told the board, was submitted by two teachers as employees were polled last week about two other options that were nearly identical except for where to place two work days.
That survey’s preference now will be compared to the teachers’ submission.
“(Teachers) are very concerned about a shorter Christmas break,” board member Christina Gwozdz said during Tuesday’s discussion.
The fall semester is highly limited in flexibility, as the district strives to balance a state-mandated late start with completing the semester before the holidays.
A 2006 state law prohibits any school district from beginning classes before the third Monday in August — which puts the starting line on Aug. 21 this year.
A bill has been prefiled in the state Assembly that would overturn that restriction and return control to local districts, though district attorney Drew Davis noted that HB 3044 has not yet been heard in committee.
Several board members stressed the need to push state legislators to take up the bill, with vice chairman Earl Campbell noting Horry County was the driving force behind the current law.
“We’re being held hostage by one county, and that’s wrong,” Campbell said. “That’s something that needs to change. They talk about local control, but how can we have local control when one county is controlling the entire state?”
Starting the school year one week earlier also would allow the district to balance the semesters, which currently stand at 85 days in the fall and 95 in the spring.